Rays PR Man Writes about ‘A Tribe Reborn’
Vince Guerrieri | On 22, Apr 2014
Although he moved to Florida when he was 5 years old, Cleveland – and the Indians – was never far from George Christian Pappas’ heart.
Pappas was born in Parma, and his earliest memories involve the Indians’ new home at Jacobs Field, which opened when he was 2 years old. Pappas, now 22 and the communications coordinator for the Tampa Bay Rays, has authored a book, “A Tribe Reborn: How the Cleveland Indians of the 90s Went From Cellar Dwellers to Playoff Contenders,” published by Sports Publishing.
The book started out with Pappas telling people that the Indians of the 1990s were the offensive equal of any other Major League team in history. It went beyond pride in his favorite team. Using advanced metrics – specifically, weighted runs created – Pappas analyzed the Indians’ offensive output from 1994 to 2000 and found that the team averaged 111 wRC in that period, second only to Babe Ruth’s Yankees of the 1920s.
That time coincided with the first seven years of Jacobs Field, which featured sellouts before the first pitch of the season was thrown and six American League Central titles (the only year the Indians didn’t win the Central was 1994, which ended in August due to a players’ strike).
Pappas started work on the book while a journalism student at the University of Florida.
“I wanted to learn as much as possible about baseball, and about the team that made me a baseball fan,” he said.
He was working for ESPN Radio at the time, and had press credentials, enabling him to do interviews for the book. All told, he talked to 23 people, including former general managers Hank Peters and John Hart, former manager Mike Hargrove and plenty of players. Pappas said his favorite interview was with Carlos Baerga, who was particularly animated throughout.
The book begins in earnest with the Jacobs brothers buying the team in the 1980s. Attendance was nominal and the Indians were limited to making $50,000 a year from advertising at Municipal Stadium, which was owned by the city but run by Browns owner Art Modell.
“They were really crippled by that deal,” he said.
Voters approved a sin tax to build a new complex downtown for the Indians and the Cavaliers, who had been playing out in Richfield. The stadium would be state-of-the-art with all the newest amenities. Concurrent with that, Hank Peters was hired to rebuild the Indians. They drafted carefully and traded shrewdly, and although Peters retired before the Indians reaped the benefits, the team’s foundation was set.
It all came together in 1994, as Jacobs Field – named for Richard Jacobs – opened, and the Indians almost instantly started to contend. Homegrown talent like Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome meshed with free agents like Eddie Murray, Orel Hershiser and Dennis Martinez and players acquired in trades like Sandy Alomar Jr., Kenny Lofton and Omar Vizquel, and the Indians had their most successful era since the early 1950s.
The one common theme, two decades after World Series losses in 1995 and 1997, is that the interview subjects still carried a chip on their shoulders because the Indians just couldn’t win it all.
“They were every bit a dynasty, just without the trophy,” Pappas said. “And I think that’s representative of being a Cleveland fan.”